The Typhoon dance troupe mixes popular and traditional Chinese dance

Angelica Wang, a Weinberg senior and co-president of the Typhoon Dance Troupe, grew up in Beijing and began learning ethnic dances at an early age. When she transferred to Northwestern, she hoped to connect with a community interested in traditional Chinese dances. Her search led her to Typhoon Dance Troupe.

Typhoon aims to showcase the diverse cultures of Chinese ethnic groups through dance. The dance group has two divisions perfecting different styles. A traditional dance division preserves traditional Chinese choreography and aesthetics, while a popular dance division blends modern dance genres with traditional elements.

Artistic director Shushan Wu, a fifth-year graduate student at McCormick, said Typhoon is beginner-friendly, with auditions resembling open classes.

“We would like to encourage and inspire more (of) the younger generation of people who (are) more interested in popular culture to focus more on traditional Chinese elements to help spread the culture,” she said.

The dancers rehearse weekly, sometimes learning pieces in advance and other times learning together. Before the shows, the group organizes dress rehearsals and learns to do their hair and make-up properly. The group also records videos of every dance they perform, which Wu says helps to include all participants, whether they are performing at an event or appearing in a video.

Wu said the Chinese pop style, or “C-pop,” influences Typhoon’s dances, as the choreography is adapted from a popular performer to accommodate the number of dancers performing. Last year, Typhoon performed “Flying Apsaras” by dancer and former EXO boyband member Lay Zhang.

“(C-pop artists) mix traditional Chinese instruments into the song, and it’s actually a great starting point for us to choreograph the dance,” Wu said.

McCormick senior Irina Cheng danced ballet for 14 years before enrolling at NU. Although she decided not to pursue her dancing career, she said that dancing was still an integral part of her life.

Cheng said she got used to structuring her life around dance, so having another form of dance to pursue at NU was important to her.

“I heard about Typhoon and thought it would be a great way to keep dancing, but also to connect with my heritage in a way that I had never had the chance to do before,” Cheng said.

Within Typhoon, Cheng specializes in traditional Chinese dance. She said the members learn techniques and dances from the Han ethnic group, as well as other ethnic groups, including the Dai people of Yunnan province.

Typhoon has performed at events such as Celebrasia, Rock the Lake, and the Chinese International Students Association New Year’s Show. The group’s annual Spring Quarter show features 12-16 pieces selected based on skill levels, dancer interest and genre variations.

Wang said looking at dance from a historical perspective allows dancers to connect with their cultures and share their heritage with the wider NU community.

“These different styles are steeped in the history, aesthetics (and) values ​​of many minority ethnic groups in China, so we really wanted to bring that to a more global scene through the dances,” Wang said.

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